Hours before the State of the Union Address by President Biden this past week, The White House lifted its mask mandate and announced that fully vaccinated people could stop wearing the face coverings following guidance from the U.S. Capitol physician.
At the conclusion of his speech, Biden spent a great deal of time doing the traditional presidential walk up the aisles of the House of Representatives chamber, greeting dignitaries, guests and members of Congress in close proximity.
Also earlier this week, British airline Jet2 became the first carrier in the world to drop its mask mandate, telling passengers they could now remove their masks for the entirety of their flight.
Two weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was lifting its restrictions regarding mask-wearing. The decision was based on the plummeting rates of COVID-19 cases and meant that more than 70 percent of the country could drop their masks at businesses, restaurants and other public places.
I'm sure you see where I'm going with this.
Just as the world was forced to change two years ago when the pandemic first hit, we have spent that time adapting to the deadly virus. But now it's time to adapt back.
It's finally time for the federal government to lift the mask mandate on planes, trains and buses when it expires on March 18.
There's no need for a long, drawn-out explanation. The day should just pass with the CDC and/or the Biden Administration making a simple announcement that masks are no longer needed on those modes of transportation.
The events of the last two weeks or so have told us what we need to know and have told us that we are at a stage now where we are living with the virus. It is what it is. Adapt and move on.
Yes, this is a sore subject. A divisive subject, to be sure. Let's face it - the tried-and-true saying that numbers don't lie comes into play when you consider that of the 5,891 airplane and airport incidents of unruly passengers reported to the Federal Aviation Administration, a whopping 73 percent were related to wearing a mask.
So the political hot potato aspect will likely remain, especially for the "you're trampling on my personal freedoms" crowd if the mask mandate is lifted but with the caveat that it's only excused for fully vaccinated passengers.
And, as much as airline CEOs, especially, have lobbied for the removal of masks, it will remain a problem for flight attendants and flight crews. Though all airlines have had significant upgrades on planes with ventilation and HEPA filters, and the chance of transmission is low even in such a confined space, flight attendants remain wary and are asking for an extension of the mask mandate.
To them, I say this: We love you. We really do. I, personally, have put my admiration for the job that flight attendants perform into print and tried to be an advocate.
But this is the one time I must disagree with the flight crews and say, you can't have it both ways. You can't ask for relief from the verbal and physical attacks by passengers - which, of course, you deserve - without also having the mask mandate rescinded. For better or worse, as those FAA numbers bear out, confrontations on planes and the mask mandate go hand-in-hand.
It's time that we wake up on March 19 knowing that we can travel without a mask again.
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